Right-wing activist hopes for miracle in Israeli election

"He wants to stop and show Syria what a good boy he is," Siskin said in an interview during a recent visit to San Francisco that included a speech at Reform Congregation Emanu-El.

"Maybe this is the miracle."

Women in Green, formed in 1993 to protest the Oslo peace accords, organizes weekly demonstrations in Jerusalem. The grassroots group, which claims 6,500 members in Israel and abroad, also opposes returning the Golan Heights to Syria and ceding Hebron or eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians.

To attract attention at demonstrations, members bang on pots and pans or perform street theater. Sometimes they go further.

Last summer, they joined West Bank settlers protesting the transfer of land to the Palestinians. One of the group's leaders ended up chaining herself to a water tank on a hill near Efrat. It was one of the numerous times Women in Green's members have been arrested.

Yet the group isn't completely against conceding territory to the Palestinians, Siskin noted.

"We're for giving back some land, such as Gaza," she said. "We're not uncompromising."

Women in Green, formally known as Women for Israel's Tomorrow, gets its nickname from the green hats members wear at public demonstrations. Newspapers regularly report that the hat color is related to the Green Line, which is a term describing Israel's pre-1967 border. But Siskin said this interpretation is wrong.

"It's because all of Israel is green and beautiful," said Siskin, who immigrated to the Jewish state 20 years ago.

On a three-week speaking tour of the United States, Siskin's green hat is conspicuously absent from atop her lacquered gray upsweep. She explains that a hat would ruin her hair, which was coifed before she left Jerusalem. She hopes the style lasts until she returns home.

"I'm very vain," she teases.

But Siskin, a 74-year-old Oklahoma native and the wife of Reform Rabbi Edgar Siskin, doesn't joke about much else.

In fact, her contempt for both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders of the current peace process is quite serious.

She never would have believed the Palestine National Council would repeal the sections of its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel — as it did recently. But the actions of PNC members don't make any difference to her.

"They want the elimination of Israel," she said. "They're liars."

Likewise, she accused Israeli diplomats in the United States of "spreading lies" about her group. And she alleged that The New York Times recently used a doctored photograph of Lebanese victims from Israel's bombings.

While some members of Israel's right wing have conceded that the rhetoric before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin went too far, Siskin blamed Rabin for his own death and called the slain leader a "dictator."

"He polarized the country," she said. "He made the climate so terrible that he got assassinated."

The atmosphere has deteriorated since the Nov. 4 assassination, she said, asserting that Israelis "no longer have a democracy" under Peres, due to the administrative detentions of some protesters since Rabin's slaying.

"Peres has absolutely cut off all opposition. People are afraid," she said. "We're always surrounded by police."

Siskin also decried the prime minister's regret over Israel's bombing of a United Nations base on April 18, in which scores of Lebanese civilians were killed.

"Peres can hardly wait to apologize. Have you ever heard Arafat apologize? It's demeaning to be a Jew and read what Peres says," she said. "It's not Israel's policy to kill civilians…But, God forbid, if we do so by mistake, I don't think Peres should get on the radio and TV every 10 minutes and apologize."

Siskin doesn't want to leave the wrong impression about her attitudes toward the Lebanese.

"I don't want to kill innocent Arabs," she declared. "Whether there are any innocent Arabs is beside the point."

Though Women in Green doesn't specifically back any political party, Siskin said that the group supports the positions of Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running against Peres in the May 29 election.

"We feel he won't give away Jerusalem and the Golan," she said.

But even if Netanyahu wins, she said, Women in Green will not necessarily dissolve, because even Likud's leader "isn't forceful enough."